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Councils warned about increases in community tension over Brexit

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Local councils are being warned to brace for an increase in community tension and localised ‘trigger events’ as the UK leaves the EU.

In the latest of a series of updates sent by the Government, Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City councils have been advised there could be increased community concerns about hate crime after Brexit.

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The city council has said community cohesion in Nottingham is strong, and that there was no specific risk to the city, other than the national situation.

But a spokesman for the Labour-run council said there had not been enough guidance from the Government on the issue, and what it sees as the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, the head of emergency planning at the Conservative-run county council said it had ‘considerable experience’ of preparing for issues with potential to cause disruption, and that it has ‘robust plans’ in place for every eventuality.

The Government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which issued the guidance, noted that hate crimes tend to rise after certain national events.

It highlighted a Home Office report which shows that racially and religiously-aggravated crimes spiked at the time of the EU referendum in 2016.

The Government guidance said: “A similar increase is possible when the UK formally leaves the European Union.

“There may also be a risk of more localised trigger events, which local authorities and their partners should be mindful of. Against this backdrop, regardless of the evidence, community concerns around hate crime may be heightened at this time.”

The government ministry encouraged councils to appoint a central point of contact for information, advice and support on hate crime.

It also said councils should step up engagement with the heads of hate crime units both at the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The ministry said: “These officers will be a source of expertise and advice for local authorities, particularly if an increase in community tension occurs.”

A spokesman for Nottingham City Council said: “There is national uncertainty about if, how and when Brexit will happen, and a lack of detailed advice from the Government about what various possible scenarios, including no deal, might entail.

“We will continue to monitor the situation alongside our partners such as the police, health services and fire service through the Local Resilience Forum, and through that forum, supply weekly updates to the Government on if and how Brexit is having a local impact.

“Nationally the risk of disorder has been identified but locally we know we have high levels of community cohesion and there is no specific intelligence to suggest that there will be civil disorder or increased community tensions locally as a result of a no deal Brexit.”

Rob Fisher is Nottinghamshire County Council’s group manager for emergency management, and said: “We have considerable experience in effectively managing issues with the potential to cause disruption.

“We have robust plans in place for all eventualities and we would respond according to our normal business continuity arrangements. We work closely with our local partners through the Local Resilience Forum and the Safer Nottinghamshire Board to co-ordinate plans and responses for any issues.”

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